Living in the 21st century, society is used to all of the implementations of technology in our world. Most people have phones always within arms reach, or a car that they use to commute to every destination. Global and national news is communicated to use through websites and television. COVID-19 increased the use of websites like Zoom and Skype to allow for communication during the lockdown. Technology is everywhere and is constantly being used.
Evidence of technology negatively affecting the environment is transportation. On average, a passenger vehicle produces 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. On the other end, advancements in technology have allowed for the invention of solar power, which reduces the amount of fossil fuels burned to produce energy. So does technology damage or improve the environment?
What are the positive effects of technology?
There are two main types of positive effects that technology has on the environment: the internet and scientific advancements. The internet allows for increased awareness of environmental issues. It is much easier to observe natural disasters that occurred on the other side of the world with access to the internet, than if that resource was not available. Another benefit is that advocates for environmental protection can reach out to a much larger audience. The internet also allows for more accurate collection and analysis of data. For example, it is much easier and faster for the U.S. Census Bureau to collect data. When collecting data takes place both digitally and in person, more people can participate.
Advancements in science have also allowed for the creation of renewable energy. The most widely used form of renewable energy is solar power, however, there are many other kinds of renewable energy that have been invented and implemented. These include hydropower, wind power, nuclear energy, geothermal energy, and biomass energy. As time goes on, renewable energy gets more scientifically developed, these energy types will become more widely used.
What are the negative effects of technology?
Manufacturing technology has a major negative effect on the environment. To create electronics or items like cars and airplanes require lots of raw materials. Mining for raw materials can create lots of pollution. A study done by the EPA in 2008 showed that 73% of the pollution that is produced in manufacturing is released into the air. This affects air quality and can lead to health issues for people living near factories. Electronic waste is also a large strain on the environment. “Technowasted” is another name for electronic trash or e-waste. When items like computers, phones, or cars are no longer usable, instead of being properly disposed of, they are often sent to landfills. Since most of these products are not biodegradable, toxic materials from the heavy metals they are made of can contaminate the ground and water.
It is impossible to say whether technology is completely harmful or not. Because technology is extremely complex and so heavily used, it can not be categorized as helpful or harmful. However, there is a lot of potential for technology to solve most of the environmental issues that are seen in the future, such as plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
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“Green Computing – Environmental Issues.” The Carnegie Cyber Academy, http://www.carnegiecyberacademy.com/facultyPages/environment/issues.html. Accessed 5 December 2021.
“Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle | US EPA.” US Environmental Protection Agency, 21 July 2021, https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle. Accessed 5 December 2021.Wardynski, DJ. “Positive Effects Of Technology – Making Everyday Life Better.” Brainspire, 16 January 2020, https://www.brainspire.com/blog/positive-effects-of-technology-making-everyday-life-better. Accessed 5 December 2021.